Ukraine signed a ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels on Friday in a bid to end the violence in the east of the country that has claimed thousands of lives. If successful, the deal would be the first step to ending a conflict at the center of the worst tensions between Moscow and the West since the Cold War. The truce was signed at a meeting in the Belorussian capital Minsk, according to statements from all parties. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gave the order for troops to ceasefire at 6 p.m. (11 a.m. ET), he said in a statement . The rebels confirmed the deal on Twitter.
"The highest value is human life," Poroshenko said. "We must do everything possible and impossible to terminate bloodshed and put an end to people's suffering." The deal comes after months of fighting between government troops and rebels widely believed to be trained and supplied by Moscow. The United Nations puts the death toll at more than 2,600. Tensions in the Russian-speaking southeast began in February with the ouster of Ukraine's Russian-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych, and the appointment of a Western-backed government.
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- Alexander Smith
Reuters contributed to this report.